Sunday, July 8, 2018

2018

7/4/18 I watched Peter Kunhardt's King in the Wilderness.  Kunhardt's style is nothing remarkable and the music can be overdone and cloying at times, but Kunhardt reveals sides of King's life that adds dimensions to my understanding of him.  Most remarkable to me was the idea of non-violence as the more radical response, as compared to retaliation, to hatred and racism.  According to King, "...if you're really going to be free, you have to overcome the love of wealth and the fear of death."

7/14/18 I watched Morgan Neville's Won't You Be My Neighbor?  Fred Rogers' life makes for a fascinating film and Neville gets into so much of what makes the story unique and provocative.  My only complaint is I wish there were more interviews from kids, like myself, who grew up watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and the way they experienced the show as compared to Rogers' ultimate vision and philosophy behind it.   

7/27/18 I watched Serge Bozon's Mrs. Hyde.  It is a strange film and I am unsure all that Bozon is after but it features yet another tremendous performance from Huppert and visually it all feels incredibly clean and clear.  It is, I guess, a little in the line of The Nutty Professor, but it takes that format to address the deep racism issues facing France at the moment.

8/24/18 I watched Paul Schrader's First Reformed.  Schrader has always seemed like someone on the brink of imploding.  He doesn't come across as one of these guys that easily shares his feelings or is often at peace.  And his greatest characters all embody the same brooding nature that, unchecked, could become dangerous.  I haven't seen all of his work but I am a huge fan of American Gigolo and Affliction and this is perhaps my favorite of all of his films I have seen.  Hawke is perfect in the role and Schrader gives us moments that previously I would not have thought him capable of.  

8/25/18 I watched Lucrecia Martel's Zama.  To be honest, it was one of these films I felt like I missed, like I was just not smart enough to understand.  It reminded me of Herzog's Cobra Verde and while the filmmaking, the acting, the colors, the sound were all extraordinary, I just never found my emotional way in.   

8/30/18 I watched Tim Wardle's Three Identical Strangers.  A pretty fascinating tale.  Not always told in the most artistically impressive manner, perhaps, but compelling and certainly does not go where you might expect.

9/4/18  I watched Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman.  Spike is totally in his element and his passion and talent come through in ways that I haven't seen in his work in more than twenty years.  I found it messy, uneven and raw, as in akin to an early draft that still needed an editor's touch.  But I also thought it the closest American film I have seen in the 21st century to the spirit of the daring and uncomfortable batch of great indies that first burst on the scene in the early to mid eighties.    

9/10/18 I watched Andrew Bujalski's Support the Girls.  Bujalski's intellectual mainstream film is smart, impressive but not always fully compelling.  Bujalski makes the strongest cinematic metaphor yet for the Me Too movement and proves to me for the first time that he might actually be able to make something subversively great from within the Hollywood system.  

10/13/18 I watched Damien Chazelle's First Man.  I was a huge fan of Chazelle's last two features but this one left me quite cold and indifferent.  It seemed very uninspired and had very little to offer in terms of a new voice or feel to an old, stodgy Hollywood genre.  

11/2/18 I watched Orson Welles' The Other Side of the Wind.  Some incredible sequences, certainly, but the editing was frustrating and ultimately defeating for me.  As much as I love Welles, I could not rise to love this one.

11/3/18 I watched Kitao Sakurai's The Passage.  A delirious short film that ran short on interest for me way before it ended.

11/20/18 I watched Marielle Heller's Can You Ever Forgive Me?  McCarthy was quite good but the filmmaking just felt awkward at times and as though it needed either a little more formal or narrative inventiveness.

11/21/18 I watched Ethan and Joel Coen's The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.  Some of the filmmaking, as can be expected, is sublime and a few of the episodes rise to great heights.  But it all feels a little overlong and ultimately left me feeling unfulfilled.  

11/24/18 I watched Boots Riley's Sorry to Bother You.  It's great to see a number of audacious films emerging directed by African-Americans.  Just in the last twelve months, just to name a few, we have had Get Out, BlacKkKlansman and now this fiery work.  It feels more strident than fully realized but it's admirable to see where it goes and how little inhibitions it has in going there.

12/2/18 I watched Julien Faraut's In the Realm of Perfection.  A film about my favorite sport and my second favorite player of all time is very French (read: minutely analytical).  It was interesting but not near as compelling as I had hoped.  

12/7/18 I watched Hong Sang-soo's Claire's Camera.  One of the few films by the great Korean director that really did not move me.  It felt like we were once again in his special world but without the deep poetry or relatable characters like there are in his best work.  

12/8/18 I watched Bing Liu's Minding the Gap.  Most impressive is the skateboarding footage and a few of the montages.  The subject matter is fairly worthy, the filmmaking a little less so.     

12/15/18 I watched Alice Rohrwacher's Happy as Lazzaro.  The first film I have seen from the young Italian filmmaker is impressive.  The best way I can describe it is a welcome concoction of Kiarostami's feel for the land, Lynch's ability for rupturing time and early Van Sant's poetic feel for the rough and marginal.  Based on this film, Rohrwacher is full of talent and tough to categorize.  I am very excited to see what she does next.                                                             

12/30/18 I watched Amy Scott's Hal.  Another documentary, like the recent one I saw on Arthur Russell, that makes you immediately want to dig further into the subject's body of work.  As a long time fan of Ashby, Shampoo for instance might be in all time top ten, I have always been curious to learn more about the filmmaker.  Having seen this doc, which I cannot recommend highly enough to any fan of Ashby, I now can't wait to go back and watch all seven of his films from the seventies.   

1/2/19 I watched Jean-Paul Civeyrac's A Paris Education.  It's unfortunate that it is shot on digital black-and-white because if it had the cinematography of Garrel's Regular Lovers it would find a place in my small pantheon of truly cherished works.  But even as is it's pretty special.  It captures some of the poetry of Paris and what the formative years feel like at the fac.  That is, time as your captive and endless amounts of it for sitting around among peers, taking walks and formulating dreams for undoing the previous generation's misguided efforts and hopes.  The end has a narrative device so brilliantly utilized by Demy in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Kazan in Splendor in the Grass, Rohmer in My Night at Maud's and to perhaps a slightly lesser degree Chazelle in La La Land.  And even though the device is familiar, Civeyrac uses it in a way that feels fresh and new.  By fast forwarding with Etienne, it is not a particular romance that he is forced to reckon with but an entire view of the world and of himself.     

1/6/19 I watched Jack Bryan's Active Measures.  The content is extraordinarily informative, even if the filmmaking is not always at the same level.

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